June 17, 2024

Technology: Name-Dropping in Designer Audio

It was the start of a business and technological partnership between the world’s largest carmaker and one of the country’s most respected audio research companies. Before, if car owners wanted a premium sound system, they typically had to buy one made by an independent audio supplier.

The change began in the late 1970s when Dr. Amar Bose, who by then had established his reputation with audiophile speakers for home systems, became intrigued by the challenge of making a car cockpit sound as good as a home listening room.

“The acoustic environment of any room, including the cabin of a car, has a profound impact on sound,” he once wrote. “The vehicle itself becomes part of the sound system.”

The task was accomplished by working with the automakers’ designers and engineers and by tuning the equipment, including speakers, amplifiers and sound processing devices, to the interiors of each model. Dr. Bose approached Edward Czapor of G.M.’s Delco division with the idea in 1979, and the first Bose-equipped Cadillac Sevilles, Buick Rivieras and Oldsmobile Toronados were produced in 1982.

Other audio companies soon followed. Among them were Mark Levinson, JBL/Infinity, Harman Kardon and Bowers Wilkins. A few others dropped off the list through the years, and many more have been added. By 2010, eight out of every 10 new cars offered premium sound systems, and those systems have become more complex.

“The amount of audio content in vehicles has risen substantially, in terms of HD radio, satellite radio, iPod and Internet sites like Pandora,” said Phil Magney, vice president of automotive research for the IHS iSuppli Corporation. In 2010 in the United States, he said, sales of branded automotive audio systems were just over $2 billion.

“So there’s a lot that’s driving the demand for branded audio,” Mr. Magney said. “There are still decent profit margins for the companies, and consumers have shown a willingness to pay.”

Indeed, as the accompanying chart shows, consumers can buy a $445 Pioneer stereo for their Chevy or buy a Bentley with an 2,200-watt system made by Naim Audio. Cost of the system: about $7,400.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2d47ceba8b08e8e14a9dd1a1c3c5cb7a